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By Alicia Nemiccolo MacLeay '97
"I never wanted to be an armchair political scientist," said Guilain Denoeux, associate professor of government. Instead, Denoeux has deftly incorporated his main areas of expertise, Middle Eastern and North African politics, with his three main interests--teaching, research and consulting. The result is a synergy of academics and political action.
In addition to professorial responsibilities, Denoeux serves as a regular consultant on democracy building and U.S. policy to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. State Department. From 1996 to 1998 he helped the USAID produce a democratization framework for developing countries. "It's a methodology," said Denoeux of the 50-page plan. "It lays down the ground rules of how you might get involved."
Since developing the plan, Denoeux has been a team leader on assessments of Senegal and Lebanon and the sole assessment consultant for Morocco. This spring, while on sabbatical, he traveled to Bulgaria to work again as a team leader. He was to return to Bulgaria to resume his work in June.
Denoeux calls himself a "comparativist" and jumps at chances to study other countries, which include Iraq, Tunisia and Israel. "It's easy to be a one-country expert," he said. "But I think it's also impoverishing."
In his consultant roles Denoeux has gained access to parliament members, open floor debates, government committees and militia members, and that access has assisted his academic research. "There is no way I would have been able to get into the inner workings and problems if I hadn't consulted with the State Department," he said. His research on legislation in the Arab world has resulted in numerous books, chapters and articles. Some of that information is confidential and can't be divulged. "You know you've got two or three juicy stories and you can't publish it," he said. "That's maddening."
Denoeux says he returns from his trips energized, and he passes that intensity on to his students. Nicole Dannenberg Sorger '96 says she was always impressed by Denoeux's ability simultaneously to stay involved in the world and remain committed to the success of his students and rigor of his courses. "He demanded far more than my other professors, which I really admired," she said.
This past January, Denoeux and Professor of French Suellen Diaconoff took 12 students to Morocco to meet with women's advocacy and service organizations. "This was a blow-your-mind experience," said Diaconoff. "It's the liberal arts experience at its fullest, and it would not have taken place without Guilain." Through Denoeux's contacts the class interviewed major leaders and met the U.S. ambassador.
"There's no substitute in my mind for exposing students to those willing to make change in countries," said Denoeux. "You can talk about women's change in Waterville, but it won't matter. One of the real problems in academics is we have a disconnect."
Students in a democracy assessment independent study that Denoeux taught from 1998 to 2000 were forced to breach that disconnect between academic theory and reality. Through a Ford Foundation "Crossing Borders" grant Denoeux taught a dozen students the USAID framework he helped develop and then sent them abroad during Jan Plans and semesters. The students visited such countries as Zimbabwe, Bolivia, Chile and Uganda to behave like consultants, interact with people in the field, think as practitioners and offer concrete ideas.
"The students had a very impressive range of interviews," said Denoeux. "They applied concepts to real-world situations. How it changed them was quite gratifying. It reflects more on our students than me."
Jonathan Rickert '00, who studied Slovakia and describes Denoeux as "rigorous and ambitious," said the project was his most rewarding Colby academic experience. "I've since spoken to students pursuing their master's degrees who haven't been afforded such a unique opportunity," he said.
Michelle Tadros '94 is another of Denoeux's many former students who praise both his high academic standards and his unfailing commitment to helping students succeed. She remembers Denoeux as intense in the classroom with little tolerance for unprepared students. "However, if you did your homework and contributed in class, there wasn't a professor that made you feel more respected," she said.
"I love being in the classroom," said Denoeux. "But I need to do other things beside teach. The more things faculty do outside Colby, the better for everyone. We're all better off if people have as diverse experiences as possible."
Diversity Call Renewed: Students, President Bro Adams, faculty and others join in effort to appreciate and accentuate differences.
Making Waves: An inside look at the news you love to hear--from Colbians.
A Simple Feast: Wylie Dufresne '92 is one of the hottest chefs in New York City.
President's Page: President Bro Adams on the court and affirmative action.
Alumni Reunion 2001
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